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Juneteenth celebrates progress, not victory

By the Advocate Editorial Board
June 15, 2017 at 6:51 p.m.
Updated June 16, 2017 at 6 a.m.

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."

These words are the beginning of General Order No. 3, which was read June 19, 1865, by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger.

The news of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and about the end of the Civil War had taken two and a half years to reach Galveston, completing its journey into every area where slavery once thrived as a way of life.

Lincoln's words forever changed history: "I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free."

This weekend several Crossroads communities - Edna, Victoria, Port Lavaca and Hallettsville - are planning celebrations of the historic day known as Juneteenth.

Music, a block party, a basketball tournament, a prayer gathering, a display of family heirlooms, children's activities and speakers are among the events planned to help bring our community together and to remind each of us about the significance of the end of slavery.

Juneteenth is not just an important date in African-American history in Texas; it is an important date in American history because it celebrates freedom and the beginning of a better chapter in the U.S. that continues to this day.

History does not always conjure up pleasant memories of our nation's past.

Slavery and the complete disregard for the rights of African-Americans are part of our legacy.

But celebrating the end of that deplorable practice should be a source of pride for us all.

President Barack Obama said in 2015 that Juneteenth is not a celebration of victory but a celebration of progress.

"Americans still recognize this occasion . as a symbolic milestone on our journey toward a more perfect union," he said.

The cultural and historic tapestry of the Crossroads has many threads of many colors, so we, too, will celebrate the day when finally the chains on our society were broken and the dream for a better future began.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.


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